Democratic Senate candidates in the Southwest are calling on delegates to the Democratic National Convention to add support for the DREAM Act to the party platform. Rep. Martin Heinrich, running for Senate in New Mexico, is heading the effort to officially adopt the act.
Immigration is a key campaign issue for Heinrich and other candidates in the heavily Latino Southwest. They hope that their support of the legislation, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth who either attend college or serve in the military, will help them turn out and win the Latino vote. It may be especially key in battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.
"I think the time has come for the DREAM Act to be part of our identity as a party," Heinrich said.
The legislation was first introduced in 2001, and the Democratic House passed it in 2010. It failed to gain traction in the Senate at that time and in both houses in subsequent sessions.
In the absence of this or other immigration legislation being approved by Congress, President Barack Obama in June announced a deportation stay for youth that closely resembles the provisions of the DREAM Act. This policy states that undocumented immigrants who entered the United States under the age of 16 and pursue an education or military service will be exempt from deportation for two years and will qualify for a work permit. Obama's policy, however, does not provide the path to citizenship many see as the key to real immigration reform. New estimates predict as many as 1.8 immigrant youth will be effected by the policy.
The DNC has declined to say whether or not they will officially add the DREAM Act to the platform: "The platform process is ongoing, but the president and Democrats support the DREAM Act and are committed to taking steps toward passing it,” said DNC spokeswoman Melanie Roussell.
Heinrich's Republican opponent for the Senate seat in New Mexico hasn't said if she would support DREAM Act passage. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said he would not sign the DREAM Act were it to pass when he was president.
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